Person In The River Dedicated to the Firefighter/First Responders of 9/11/2001

9-11-2001

Person in the Water—Dedicated to the Fire Fighter/First Responders who gave their lives responding on 9/11/2001—a 911 emergency

The twenty-four hour tour of duty was just beginning. After radio check the crew of three from the outside satellite station had started their assigned tasks around the house. The officer was cutting the grass, the pump operator checking and cleaning the truck and equipment, and the back step firefighter cleaning the station. Bells and radio signal draw immediate attention, and station details are no longer of importance.

The call comes in with two bells and the announcement over the Personal Address speakers “Person in the River,” followed by closest location reported and response assignment.
Crews of First Responders head out the door; the closest crew of three arrive on scene where they are signaled by waving arms of the location. Just past the old stone arch bridge the river bends by a grassy field and is bordered by a line of trees and brushy growth, a place where there is a view of the river and shelter from the summer sun. A place where the old man who waved us over had been fishing until a passing pleasure boat transiting the river sighted someone floating in the water. It is a place where a homeless person known to the district fire company and police had been living recently.

Years of experience tells the initial crew that it is too late for a rescue. The officer unofficially announces a death over the radio with the transmission, “To all responding companies, this is a recovery, repeat, this is a recovery.” The response continues and the drill is the same as a rescue but subtle sorrow replaces urgency as another pump, ladder truck with rescue boat, command car, police local and state, and ambulance crews arrive. first responders all and the true meaning of 911 where calls for help of any kind are answered and dealt with professionalism and respect no matter who you are, alive, recently departed or those grieving and left behind.

The crews set up on shore at the opening as an inflatable life ramp is filled from one of the same air tanks used to breathe at fires; one firefighter in a bright orange Survival Suit enters the water tethered to shore by a colorful floating safety rope, a ‘Go Rescue’. The firefighter moves quickly and without hesitation. He is the first human contact for the victim. Carefully, condition and death are confirmed. The colorful line is delicately placed around the floating man and held together with a carabiner connector. If it were a rescue the firefighter would also be connected and wrap his legs around as the line tenders pull rescuer and victim to shore. The reality of a recovery is now in some waiting as the colorful line connects victim to shore, to the place where he watched the river.

Yellow hazard tape is set up around the scene to keep onlookers at a safe distance and to cordon off the scene until state investigator, photographer and coroner’s pickup van arrive. The cause of death, ruling out foul play, and recovery await their arrival. The first arriving responders stand by and stand guard over the man in the water near the river bank. We believe him to be the homeless person. Alone in life, he is now the center of attention and conversation to the onlookers outside the tape. The old man who waved us to the scene has strangely gone back to fishing, not knowing what else to do, as helpless as the victim and first responders without a rescue. The ladder company has checked the shore and river in the rescue boat for other victims with nothing found. The family transiting the river in a pleasure boat is questioned over the same cell phone the 911 came in on. They continue down the river to safe harbor and out to the ocean for the day. The day though sunny and hot is not as bright and warm for any of us who are witnesses, waiting, or standing guard. Who is the man in the water? Center of attention in death, he is tethered to land in a subtle noninvasive way by a lifeline. His life and soul passed probably a day earlier. Troubled spirit lost long before today? Who is he?

Clues and Questions
The water he watched from the riverbank had held him in a cool embrace and protected him from the start of a heat wave which followed violent thunderstorms. Embrace released, he now floats facedown like the lily pads across the river hugging the opposite shore in sunlight. His black sunglasses were found in a private place hidden from sight. Next to the glasses a bottle emptied of cheapest rum. He was wearing tee-shirt and shorts, black belt, white sneakers. He was about the same height as the homeless man who always stayed on the shady side of the river by the grassy field. The line of growth between field and river offered cover and privacy from critical eyes. The First Responders had helped him many times in past weeks. Calls for ‘person down’, had brought them to various locations to help him up, tend to injuries, get some history and give a little pep talk before he was taken to the local hospital—cleaned up treated and put back on the street. –911 responders get to know the regulars, ‘frequent fliers’, they know the present problems and get hints of troubled pasts. The regulars come and go, always to be replaced by another broken spirit standard-bearer. First responders can only help with immediate medical and emotional needs. First responders can not heal broken spirits and find lost souls. But they try! The clues point to the homeless man, the questions remain. The field, wood and river are the homeless person’s companions without judgment or criticism. A place where swans occasionally transit the river, nature in its perfection and the human nature of imperfection in uncomplicated unquestioned connection.

Who knows what defeats the spirit? What starts the downward spiral of hope and loss of faith? Why do so many get lost in a bottle, a drug, a bet, abuse and trauma? How the human nature of imperfection can let us think that we can find our spirit in imbibing substances? That we can find solace in anything that brings relief no matter how temporary or futile? Why did the homeless person leave the perfection of nature, walk past the health food store, the coffee shop and go instead to the liquor store? Was his last walk back to his natural shelter, the last spiral down the bank in drunken stupor into the cool embrace of his river? Did he die alone and frightened during the violent thunderstorm?

The investigator arrives and agrees with what the First Responders already know. The photographer arrives and takes his pictures of the scene. Both have a tough job in giving some closure and finality to the task at hand. Outside the tape the onlookers, bored, find connection and chatter with others who pass by and stop. They are told to move on, to move back, that this is nothing they want to see. Some of them have their children with them in a place no child should be. They move on but still gawk from a distance so the ambulance is moved closer and in their way. Bored curiosity and open indifference could be better spent. Children should be playing! Did the onlookers care at all when the man was alive? How many times was he told to move on, to be someone else’s problem? To find shelter in nature where questions were not asked and some peace found.

The Recovery
The minivan/hearse arrives. The coroner’s body recovery person is a young man wearing shorts, tee-shirt, black belt, and white sneakers. He is so relaxed and casual that his identification is checked. Already too experienced at a ghoulish but necessary job he covers up in a throw away white coveralls suit and the end of the recovery nears.
The line is cast to the rescue boat and they move to slowly bring contact with shore. Fire fighters and the ambulance crews grab the rope, belt, clothes and sneakers and carefully move him to a white body bag on the bank of the river. Pictures are taken, it is his tattoo, we cut open his back pocket to remove the wallet, and it is our homeless person, though with loss of life, spirit and soul he bears no resemblance. The bag is zipped up and six of us in procession move his body with care and respect to a stretcher. He is placed in another black bag, zipped in and strapped down to the stretcher. The responders are silent except for the commands to move and the sound of zippers and click of strap connections. He is moved into the back of the minivan hearse and the driver who is dressed the same but for the color of the tee-shirt leaves the bank of the river, drives across the grassy field, by the health food store, coffee shop and liquor store. He carries our once frequent flier over the river across the old stone arch bridge and along the sunny side of the river to highway and mortuary. The rescue boat crew follows the river back to the launching point and return to service as a Ladder Truck Company One. The onlookers disperse and all but the initial crew move on to other calls and duty. The first due company removes the hazard tape and retrieves the colorful lifeline. First to arrive are often also the last to leave. They return to quarters and the details of fire house keeping, cutting grass and mopping floors, checking equipment to ready for their next call, the next run out the door.

The Downward Spiral
We know from past calls that he is from the same neighborhood. We know he once owned a house in another town and lost it. He grew up not far from the river. He lost home, house, business, jobs, cars and license. He made and lost friends family and connections. He played ball on the grassy field as an adolescent, hung out as a teen. He returned to his old neighborhood because he did not know where else to go. He returned for the memories of that childhood to teen home as a lost adult. Lost in a river of troubles he ended up in the water’s cool embrace. He found fleeting relief in a bottle but no answers. He slowly buried his spirit long before he became homeless. His troubles were just the marking posts of the loss.

Will the trees, field and river remember his passing? The river flows to safe harbor to ocean where it is freed to be part of the whole. From the ocean waters clouds rise and become rain. The lake fills drains to the river that flows by the shore. It washes a wooded bank by a grassy field. The rain splatters on lily pads as swans seek shelter where a boy played and a homeless person lived. The water carries a spirit and soul to find restful peace.

Who Is The Homeless Person?
The person is Everyman, who everybody knows and everyone has inside. He is in every family, in every town, village and city. He is everywhere we go.

He is us! He is the homeless guy, the alcoholic, the druggie, the lost soul, the village idiot, the gambler, the abused and the abuser, the trauma and the tragedy. He is your neighbor, your friend, your partner, your spouse.

He is the human being, the spirit, the soul, the body, the connection to us all, to the whole that we are all a part of and he is everyman. He is everyone who can see, feel, and care for the nature of it all.

He is hope, faith, love, charity.

He is connection, communication, caring, empathy, sympathy and warmth. He is commitment and truth. He is all of us and he is a broken spirit and a lost soul without us.

© Ken Pothier July 17, 2006—edited and republished on 9/11/14

Ray Lamontagne–Till The Sun Turns Black–CD Review

Till The Sun Turns Black–Review of the Music and Wisdom

Of RAY LAMONTAGNE

By Ken Pothier–Southern New Hampshire

It is not often that a work of music captures your ears and then steals your heart in touching emotions and feelings on first listen.

Ray Lamontagne with his CD Till The Sun Turns Black drew me in on the first song and I found myself sitting up to hear the wisdom of the lyrics in this work by an artist that is a Wizard of Words, capturing deep feelings and channeling them thru music.

Music that is haunting, ambient and tranquil at times and rises when needed as high as the depth of this mans feelings. This is a man who captures the singer songwriter musicianship that Jackson Browne and Dan Fogelberg did on their breakthrough albums years ago. I also felt the depth that the Beatle’s Rubber Soul and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water made me feel on first listens to those works of art and music. This is Enya on testosterone with real musicians capturing lyrics and feelings that take balls to touch.

Drawn in on first listen, better and more nuanced each time. It is good as background or as a place to tap feelings and emotions. Ray goes deep in palpating words and music perfectly blended as if channeled from the wisdom of the ancestors.

From BE HERE NOW

“Don’t let your mind get weary and confused- your will be still don’t try”

“Don’t let your heart get heavy- child inside you there is strength that lies”

“Don’t let your soul get lonely- child its only time it will go by”

“Don’t look for love in faces places- it’s in you that’s where you’ll find (it)

“Be here now- here now- Be here now- hear now”

Writer and musician–lyrical art study that helped me touch feelings of my own.

From EMPTY: “I never learned to count my blessings- I choose instead to dwell in my disasters”

“Somehow it’s still hard to let go of my pain- will I always feel this way so empty so estranged”

“of these cutthroat busted sunsets cold and damp white mornings I have grown weary”

“If thru cracked and dusty dime store lips I spoke these words would no one hear me”

And how about these killer lines from the same song: “Well I looked my demons in the eyes laid bare my chest said do your best to destroy me- said I’ve been to hell and back so many times I must admit you kind of bore me”

The real musicians including Ray play; acoustic guitar, piano, strings, violins, celli, bowed bass, percussion, viola, B3, Wurlitzer, electric piano, electric guitar, trumpet, sax, dobro, flute, uke, acoustic bass, mellophone, euphonium, Spanish guitar, French horn, reed organ,

See if such strength in word and music draws you in and hauntingly channels wisdom while touching your feelings.

Poem–A Search for Healing in So Much Sorrow: Writing 201:Poetry: Future

A Search for Healing in So Much Sorrow

The light both rises and falls on hopes horizon

So much sorrow and too little truth,

Need with so much greed

Sometimes I mourn for these sad days. These troubled times and the human race

My Big Dawg ‘Bruce Springsteen’ playing on the radio

Singing about ‘Devils and Dust.’

I write of broken hearted rust

In a search for healing I

Find revival in songwriters’ words we are

‘Born to Run’ from ‘Devils and Dust’

Find spark from song and the

Common ground of the common man

With a ‘Boss’ who lives truth from ‘E Street’

To Main Street

In stories of real people,  the

Heart of a country

So far removed from mindless spin of zombies

The right that is wrong

Sometimes you must mourn for the people of this world

All alone together

‘Devils and Dust’ filling our souls

Tough to breath and to know your roles

Dream our dreams and fulfill our goals

Come together, communicate and connect

A day at a time one step forward, two back

Dreams held and drifting we must

Resist, believe and persist in clouds and blue sky and in Shadows and light

Souls in danger with spiritual cost

Lives at risk with spirit lost

Strive to maintain faith and learn to love as we touch each day

The Shadow of our dreams, those we love and those whose love has touched us

Sadness of our own and those we wish to reach

We give our all each day alive but alone

To go down in dreams each night

Awake looking for the morning light

Cherished grace of charity and compassion

Quiet in our desperation

Energy spent with little residual

Sore wounded scorched spirit

Soul searching

Heavy load train of thought and emotion

Going too fast to just stay on track

We move up the next hill just to see hopes horizon

Hold on

How much sorrow can we bear?

Before doing determined best

Yielding we just put it down

Where the light both rises and falls

“God bless us and save us”

Grandfather said through Two World Wars

And through a grandson

“Great Spirit of all bless us and save us” from the greed and hypocrisy

So much sorrow

Help us to resist, believe and persist

Strive to maintain faith and search for healing

Learn to love as we live

Cherish grace of compassion and charity

Come together, Communicate and connect

Find the courage to believe in yourself and in others

On common ground

Where irreconcilable differences

Diminish, disperse and disappear

On hopes horizon

The place where the light both rises and falls

{Attribute: spark to years of listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band and the rest to the genes inherited from the ancestors}

A Fathers Love of his children is unconditional

Letter to Heidi on her Birthday

Written if not sent, felt if not touched, communicated if not received

Years ago you had a dream and though I did not know what was going on it was the start of your mother putting an end to my dreams of having loving, caring daughters as part of my life.

I reach out now because I have given up on waiting for you girls to realize that I never left but that I was threatened and forced away with no way to communicate and no due process to get my truth out to the light of day. I lost you because I was in the dream of an out of control thirteen year old girl who had acted out in multiple harmful behaviors after I was separated from your mother. I never wanted to leave our home. I left because your mother could not hear or see the real me. She was weak emotionally from a past which occurred long before I met her.

Heidi when you had your dream you were institutionalized. You were psychotic and put on medications immediately after I brought you to the hospital. You were anorexic and bulimic with ketones showing in your blood. The doctors said you were a couple of weeks from the chance of death. You had experimented with both illegal and prescription drugs and alcohol, and were acting out in many other destructive ways. After I left the house your mother did her best to keep us apart no matter how much I wished to keep a connection. In June I set up the apartment to stay close and have a place for you and your sisters to visit or stay over.

Your mother also kept me out of the loop and in the dark about you acting out in an unreasoned adolescence and abusive behavior. I only got clues and pieces when I started talking to Aerial after your mother had lost control and it was too late. All I could do was to bring you to appointments. It broke my heart. All of this was not fair to you or me and if I had any idea that all this would happen I would have stayed in the house to keep a connection to you girls alive and watch over you.

I firmly believe that my leaving followed by Heather a month later was the root cause of your problems. I also know from DSS reports that your mother had not told me about much of her past and had not dealt with it. As you girls reached the age when her problems began she started to transfer the feelings to our family. In her mind if it could happen to her and her sisters it could happen to you.

I fought as hard as I could when you had the dream to stop the legal threats and restraining orders which prevented me seeing you at your time of greatest need. It tore me up. I wanted so much to keep connection and communication alive. I have never done anything to hurt or harm you Heidi. I tried to teach you right from wrong but once you girls reached adolescence my voice was silenced and I could only set an example by being a good hardworking father who lived to help others and support you. I firmly believe that you needed a strong fathers influence to teach and communicate with. It has always been my dream to watch over and help you grow, learn, and find your way in life, to see you find joy and contentment. Unconditional love is what a father feels for his daughters. No matter what you did or went through I would have and will be there for you. Since I left the house my dream has been denied. I was made a scapegoat and victim of separation, divorce, and the unreasoned action of an emotionally damaged partner. I have never been listened to only shunned. I am so sorry for and hurt by what you had to go through. I wish I had been allowed to be there for you. To protect, console and guide you. You and your sisters are in my thoughts each day. Each day I miss you and am concerned for your welfare. It is not an easy world to grow up in and survive. A part of me will always be lost without you in my life.

I am proud of you. You have not only survived that unreasoned adolescence but moved on and restructured your life. I have learned from internet searches that you graduated with distinction in Criminal Justice from UMass Boston. I wish I could have been there. I have been forced to miss so many occasions and milestones in your life. I always think of you on your birthday with both joy and sadness. Joy at being the first to hold you and in watching you grow. Joy in remembering the good and simple days like driving you to preschool in Waltham and walking you to the bus stop at the Fulton School. A couple of weeks ago I went down to Falmouth for your great Aunt Paula’s funeral (grandma’s sister) and passed by the “Bay View Campground.” We camped there both as a family and with just you. We had time together and you wanted me to swim in all four pools and walk the whole campground. I teared up when I saw the sign in Bourne. It is difficult not having you in my life, it is my greatest tragedy and it is wrong. It never should have been this way and I only survived it because of a true love and relationship. I wish you could have seen a real loving, caring, true relationship growing up. I can only hope that you have found one.

I do not know if this letter will get to you. I hope and pray that this is not the end of hope but the beginning of a healing that only connection, communication and the truth can bring.

The Unconditional Love of your DAD always

Happy Birthday May 23, 2013

Memorial to Donald Murray with Poems: His Time Was Write and Hard Wood Writing

Never a Day Without a Line
When a mentor passes on–A Memorial to Donald Murray

I heard it on the 11 o’clock New Years Day news. Donald Murray died of a heart attack at the age of 82. He had submitted his column ‘Now and Then’ to the Boston Globe the day before he died. He never stopped working, learning or sharing the knowledge he had gained.

My connection to Donald started from a Now and Then column that he had written in late winter which mentioned a spring writing class and one of his favorite bookstores on Water Street in Exeter NH. A heartfelt feeling took me there and I bought the book he suggested and left my information. Fortune smiled and on a Monday nights for six weeks I found myself at Don’s house in Durham with a circle of writers and novices of the craft. Don in his chair teaching by drawing us in and sharing his life and the work he loves. A large man in both stature and heart held court as we listened and learned in a circle where he made us feel equal. No pretense, just the spirit of a man open and true. His words ring true in my head: ‘Find your voice and tune it to the situation’
‘Writing is personal-be as true as possible’
‘The voice must sound like you, if not something is wrong-you may not be close enough to the material’
‘I still sometimes look at the world as a soldier’
‘Write with velocity and lower your standards’
‘Good writers see deep important things about the human condition. They articulate the human condition for those who can not’
‘Surprise is wonderful, I want to surprise myself some more before the road ends’

I met with him three times after the class ended. Twice for breakfast at ‘Young’s’ in Durham where everyone knows his name. The morning after class ended I picked him up at 5:45 AM. He told me he had stayed up all night as enthusiasm about the class, father’s day trip weekend prior, writing, and using his new art supplies would not let him sleep. He insisted on paying for breakfast and said that my turn was next. As I dropped him off at his house and told him to get some rest he answered, ‘after I write a little’. 82 years old, up all night and his motto, ‘nulla dies sine linea’ and work ethic still ruled.
For me he is gone too soon, too fast but he will always be with me. It’s his turn again to buy breakfast and he promised to come for dinner and meet my ‘Maria May.’
He believed in his family, his students, his friends and his colleagues. He gave us a confidence devoid of judgments that we could find our voice and tune it to the situation.
I offer a poem written with Donald in mind and submitted during what would be his last class. He had taken up drawing and painting recently for the sheer joy and surprise of it. The last line was added today.

Hard Wood Writing

Feeling lucid under pressure
Moments of sheer horror and panic do pass
Drawn on ousted emotions to draw-paint words to paper
Form scenes opened felt by me
Acts of art for others to observe-see
A word play called ‘New Hope Spring’
On a clean cool clear and cloudy canvass of Papyrus
Framed pages with words
Book cover borders
Times Temperaments Torments Trusts
Loss and Rebirth
Felt and Palpable on written page
Hopes spring grows and flows
Words in mahogany and oak
A writer’s true rings of hard growth memory
True to a vision of what has come to pass
Hard Wood Writing on soft textured page of one person’s past
Written Word Etched for Eternity by Scribed Survivor
Mahogany Voice Rises from Oaken Experience
From scribbler to Scribe the Survivor Crafts
The soft subtle textured pages of a life’s
Lessons Learned and Shared
Now and Then

His time was write

Found a mentor, ol’ sage, life almost spent

He opened his home, gave a last class

Unconditionally he let us in and shared a successful career

“Write Short, Write Quick,” the mentor said.

The world has changed–attention spans are short sighted

Draw them in, hold them, set them free, with words from the heart

An old man’s spirit shared

His time was write

Now and Then taught me ours is then and now

The road goes on and I will be one of Donald’s Acolytes–Apostles

Nulla dies sine linea–never a day without a line

Share a life til the road ends

To be taken up by a spirit who’s time is write

Copyright by Ken Pothier

Loves Road Has Been Traveled

Roads have been traveled

Dues have been paid

Love; found, tossed, lost and found anew

On never straightforward paths of imperfection

A good feeling to know should grow

Love must be nourished to survive years and tears

Love must move forward

Lessons learned not lost

Life’s companions must be earned

In little compromises and winks of understanding

Definitive diplomacy with an eye to connection

Mindful consideration

Calm contemplation and thoughtful tenderness

Paths paved with kindness and sharing

Lead to a river of feeling

Cool waters

Carefully sipped from cups of joy

A Letter of love to my daughter on her Birthday

I have written this letter in my head a thousand times for it is either my last hope fulfilled or my lost hope forever. Rebecca you have never been forgotten and you are thought of and loved by me each day. In my minds’ eye you are the one who always tried your best to be a good daughter and steer clear of trouble. I believe that you wanted nothing to do with making a scapegoat and victim out of me. Yes, you and I were both innocent victims of the madness and dysfunction which occurred. I believe you have survived the trauma and built a new life for yourself. I am proud of you now as I have always been for you doing your best under trying circumstances. I am glad that I was able to say, ‘I love you” the last time I saw you.

I reached out to J in November 2010 with a letter. It is 100% the truth but she rejected it outright in a letter from her lawyer threatening me. However, you are my daughter and daughters are forever. I have enclosed a copy of a framed picture of me on a birthday celebrating with my girls. It is next to my desk with other photos which I look at each day. Rebecca the love I see in your eyes is the love I feel for you. It is wrong to let that love be chained and imprisoned by a dysfunctional disconnect. I was never allowed to communicate my truth. I was shunned and abandoned by a family I truly loved and love still.

Each night I still say, “good night I love you.” Each morning I awake to another day without you.
I take some soulace in having kept journals each year of our life together as a family. I have taken a few quotes from the pages,
Journal pg.17-“Our family, It is an absolute wonder watching the girls grow and being a part of it.” [The saddest part is all that I have missed seeing in your lives during these years apart.]

Journal pg.41-“Today is warm, could be 60°with a touch of spring. H and Rebecca are playing make believe with their little people. J is registering Rebecca for kindergarten. I will miss having Rebecca around the house during the day-she is a part of the sunshine of my life. I will savor watching them grow and try to appreciate each trying stage of their development. It only happens once for each of them.”

Journal pg.44 from Girls Bikes and the Park-“Rebecca made an artwork out of junk-she can see the beauty in everything.”
[I too try to see the beauty in life. I live on a lake and the nature of the place gives some comfort.]

Journal pg.63-Rebecca’s 5th Birthday-“I feel wonderful about it being Rebecca’s Birthday-she lights up my life.” [I have missed so many and do not want to miss anymore. I have a hard time on your birthdays but pray you are well and keep you in a special place in my heart.]

Journal pg.81-“Sunny and fair for Rebecca’s graduation from Sunshine Nursery School, we have her home for the summer.” [Congratulations on graduating from UMA with honors in Comparative Literature]

I am doing a lot better since writing the letter to J in November. I had to rebuild my life and move on or my spirit would have perished in depression over missing you and your sisters. I retired from the Fire Dept.early [there were too many reminders in our home town] and returned to University to study English Language, Literature and Creative Writing. I have always been interested in writing and also wished to experience what my girls were doing. Finishing school in 2010 led to a deepening of depression as years had gone by with none of you reaching out to me. In November I started volunteering at the Veterans Health Center during the week. Two or three nights a week I volunteer at a Music Hall in NH and get to see the shows for free. Music has always been a spiritual connection in my life. Volunteering helped me get through the worst of it.

Now on a cloudy, foggy and misty early spring day as the first fisherman casts a line where the lake ice has left the western shore I cast a hope into the new season. Just as with fishing I know not if the line will reach you and if it does if it will be taken. Luck and hope are common denominators. I pray you get the letter and consider my truth with the perspective of critical thinking that you used to get honors at UMA.
I Love You-Dad
daughters and a fathers love are forever